May 29—Longmont City Council on Tuesday is to discuss the possible future adoption of a licensing and inspections program for rental housing.
Longmont's code enforcement staff now inspects potential problems on a complaint basis, when the city hears from tenants with concerns about whether their rental units' conditions violate health, safety or welfare provisions in Longmont's municipal code.
The city adopted the 2018 International Property Maintenance Code, which code enforcement staff uses when a housing complaint is made. The IPMC addresses standards for unsafe structures; structural soundness; rubbish and garbage; plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems; and fire safety.
"Currently we average about 60 complaints a year," City Planning Director Glen Van Nimwegen and Senior Housing Inspector Dane Hermsen wrote in a memo for Tuesday night's Council study session.
However, there are thousands of rental units in Longmont, Nimwegen and Hermsen wrote.
"A proactive rental housing licensing and inspection program" could cost $300,000 a year, including the addition of three senior code enforcement housing inspectors to Longmont's staff and the related expenses associated with such a program, the officials estimated. .
Last October, a 5-2 Council majority voted for Councilwoman Marcia Martin's motion to direct staff to prepare a report about the possibility of requiring owners of residential properties to get city licenses in order to be able to rent their properties to tenants.
Staff said in its report for Tuesday's study session that its $300,000 cost estimate was based on its research of four other Colorado communities with such licensing or inspections programs, or both: Aurora, Boulder, Littleton, and Westminster, and a potential Longmont program of licensing all units — and subsequently inspecting units that are at least eight years old every two years.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2019 American Community Survey data, there are approximately 10,644 attached rental units in Longmont that are eight years old or greater, city staff said. If a Longmont licensing and inspection program included inspecting 10,644 units every two years, then three new housing inspectors would be required, city staff said, based on the assumption an inspector could perform 70 inspections every two weeks, totaling 1,820 per year. Initially, 5,322 units per year would need inspections.
The amount of inspections would increase each year, along with the annual cost of the program, as units become eight years old.
Longmont staff said most of the four communities they reviewed set local standards for when licensing and inspections are required, usually based on the number of attached units and the age of structure. The communities surveyed focus on basic standards of health, safety and welfare.
Boulder, which also inspects exterior lighting for dark sky standards and the energy efficiency of the rental unit, requires inspections when a license is first issued; when the license has lapsed for 90 days; and when there is a change in ownership, or a minimum of every four years, Longmont staff reported. Boulder's inspection staffing is done by six full-time city administrative staff and code enforcement inspectors. Boulder's inspections are supplemented by private inspectors certified by the city.
Aurora requires yearly inspections for any project that is five years old or greater. Multi-family structures are inspected every one to five years, based on their age. by a 20-person staff, Longmont officials reported.
Westminster inspects multi-family structures every one to five years, based on the structure's age, with a four-person staff. .Westminster uses a graduated inspection schedule. Developments that are six to 19 years old are inspected every four years. At the structures' age of 20 and greater, the inspections increase to every two years.
Longmont staff reported that Littleton instituted a rental licensing and inspection program to address property neglect brought on during the recession in 2009 but suspended the program in 2015.
The idea of licensing and inspecting Longmont's rental housing is not new. It was previously considered by the City Council in August 2009, in response to the number of foreclosures and the impacts on neighborhoods, city staff wrote.
"The topic also was discussed in 2003 as a potential strategy to help revitalize Longmontneighborhoods. Both presentations resulted in the City Council at the time retaining ourcomplaint based approach to solving rental housing issues,." staff said.
Last October, Councilwoman Martin said the directive to have the staff report back on a possible rentals licensing program would not commit the Council to adopt such a mandate but would allow Council to see at least "a sketch of a plan" of what staff says it would take to administer and enforce such a requirement.
She said Longmont is the first place she's lived that did not have a rental licensing requirement.
Joining Martin in directing staff to prepare that report were Council members Joan Peck, Polly Christensen, Aren Rodriguez and Susie Hidalgo-Fahring.
However, Mayor Brian Bagley and Councilman Tim Waters, who dissented in the 5-2 vote to have the staff prepare a study of the idea, questioned during that October meeting whether Longmont would be able to fund adequate enforcement of a rental-licensing requirement.
In a Thursday email, Martin said, "Different Council members have different agendas in wanting this program." She said the staff has described "a well-researched and inexpensive program that probably will raise the quality of our rental housing stock moderately. That's a good thing."
Martin said that "also, up to a point, I think we need to hold landlords accountable for the behavior of their tenants, as we are beginning to do for STRs (short-term rentals). Having a system that helps us know where the rentals are enables all sorts of quality-of-life enhancements for Longmont."
Longmont already requires an annual permit and inspections for short term rentals — rental for fewer than 30 days of an entire dwelling owed by a Longmont resident, or individual rooms in an owner occupied dwelling — to ensure that rentals comply with building occupancy and life safety requirements and do note that rentals comply with building occupancy and life safety requirements and do not create nuisances for the surrounding neighborhood.
There currently is no city licensing requirement for housing rented for more than 30 days at a time, however.
If you watch
What: Longmont City Council regular meeting
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Meetings are being held remotely due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. People can watch the liive stream any of these ways:
— Click 'PLAY' on the video link within the interactive agenda on the City's Agenda Management Portal at longmontcolorado.gov/online-services/agendas-and-minutes/agenda-management-portal
— The city's YouTube channel at https://Bit.Ly/LongmontyoutubeliveBit.Ly/Longmontyoutubelive
— Via the Longmont Public Media website at LongmontPublicMedia.Org/Watch
— Comcast Channels 8 or 880